If You Can’t Stand The Heat. . .


Simply put, it’s hot outside.  Real hot.  The kind of hot that tries to sneak into every crevice of the house, that turns blacktop into water, that makes the simplest of tasks — like breathing — a sweaty mess.  It’s the kind of hot featured in Body Heat, the crime noir film in which the sultry weather was as much of a star as Kathleen Turner and William Hurt.

I happen to enjoy hot weather, mostly because a) I’m usually cold and b) I’m fortunate to not have to work outside for a living — and thankful for those who must.  I, on the other hand, can squeeze in any gardening duties before sunrise or after sunset.

And so each morning, I awake with a song buzzing around my head — and it’s not the cicadas.  It’s a classic from Marilyn Monroe:

“We’re havin’ a heat wave, a tropical heat wave. . .”

That’s my cue to begin my primary chore — delivering water to the garden.  I’m one of the few people in my neighborhood that does not have a sprinkler system.  Why have an entire system to deliver water when I can drag hoses and mobile sprinklers all over the yard, careful to not crush any plants or knock over any pottery along the way?  Besides, the old method gives me greater control — and the chance that I might get wet if I have to run through the sprinkler to fine tune my aim.

At least that’s how I approached the heat wave at its start. Since then, I’ve watched the news, and the reporters informed me — in their best end-of-days voices — that this heat wave is the longest one in decades.  People are dying.  Highways are buckling.  Power is failing.  Even my local supermarket is conserving energy by turning off large banks of lights.  Maybe I need to rethink my summer position.

And with that, my love for extreme heat melted away faster than a Fudgesicle in July.  Although the zinnias have held up beautifully (an upcoming “Bloomin’ Update” will celebrate them), the temperatures are starting to take their toll in the garden.  Not only is there no night-time relief, there just isn’t enough of me — or water, for that matter — to keep all of my plants sated.  Despite my best water brigade efforts, the new grass is burning, the hydrangeas are wilting, and the daylilies are more like half-daylilies.  Admire them before noon; they may not make it beyond 3:00.


I also notice that I am eerily alone while I’m outside.  My neighbors are absent, although I see their automatic sprinkler systems continuing to operate.  I wonder if they’ve adopted a vampire life, emerging after the sun has set.  Or have they fled north in search of cooler weather?  I hope not, because they’re missing out on some very green lawns.

I shield my eyes from the sun’s glare as I look through the film of ozone that hazes the distance.  I’m looking for Rod Serling to appear to let me know that I’ve entered “The Twilight Zone.”

One of my favorite episodes from that series is all about heat.  In “The Midnight Sun,” a young woman and an elderly neighbor are trying to hold on as the world, knocked out of its orbit and headed toward the sun, burns up under increasingly heated temperatures.  (The kicker is that the earth was knocked away from the sun and the young lady is actually delirious with a very high fever.)

Fortunately, I have someone “The Twilight Zone” characters didn’t have.  I have Jim Cantore of The Weather Channel — who is a bit like Rod Serling.  Like Rod, if Jim shows up outside your door, you know some weird stuff is about to go down.

In a recent report, Jim explained that the heat wave is the result of an enormous high pressure system stalled over the eastern half of the country, acting like a bubble that was not only heating up, but trapping the heat inside of it — a kind of meteorological Under the Dome, if you will.

Whew, I say to myself, that’s a relief.  At least the earth is still in its orbit.

He then finished his report: “This thing is getting bigger!”

A few things, Jim.  First, when you say a sentence like that, it sounds like bad dialogue from a b-movie.  Second, your tone of voice really doesn’t make me feel calm.  I mean, I was feeling pretty good about the earth staying in its orbit, but you’re making this high pressure dome sound like the high pressure dome that ate the world.

Hope for relief came in tonight’s weather forecast, with promises of cooler temperatures by the end of the weekend.

Truthfully, I don’t want cooler temperatures.  I don’t want summer to rush away.

Besides, cooler weather will be coming all too soon.  It’s called autumn, followed by winter.  Speaking of winter, this was the view from my front window a few months ago.  It kind of looks like an earth moving away from the sun.


Until then, I’ll happily hydrate, wear light-colored clothing, and hope for the best with my plants.  And if Rod Serling or Jim Cantore knocks on my door, I’ll let you know.

Re-Post: Do You Suffer From G-SAD?

This post first appeared nearly a year ago, and since I am somewhere on a highway on my way to a vacation and faraway from any Internet service , I thought it was quite appropriate to revisit the anxiety that I feel when I have to leave my garden in someone else’s hands.  For longtime readers, I apologize for this repeat broadcast; for new readers, I hope you enjoy.

I have done what every therapist and doctor advises people not to do. I have self-diagnosed, but let me first explain.

It’s summertime, and Joe and I are going on vacation for a few days. It’s a chance to relax, to get away from everything, to reconnect, to breathe. In actuality, though, the days leading up to departure mean a growing sense of unease and worry. I become consumed with obsessive thoughts, anxiety, and stress — and none of it comes from the what-to-pack, what-not-to-pack scenario, nor from the airport pat-down, nor from who will mind the dog and the cat, nor from the last-second question, “Did I remember to take my trusted Swiss army knife out of my carry-on?” No. For me, the physical-emotional symptoms stem from leaving my garden and entrusting its care to someone other than myself. I am now calling these symptoms Garden Separation Anxiety Disorder, also known as G-SAD, as in, “Gee, That’s sad.”

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Terracotta Love: Now That’s Amore!

I’m in love with a terracotta pot.  I’m not sure if that’s even possible, but the truth is there is one pot in my collection of which I’m especially fond – and each spring when I remove it from its winter storage, it’s like reuniting with a long lost love.  I know its curves and warm tones and textures.  I accept all of it, even the irregular sizes of its pockets.  Yes, the terracotta pot of my dreams is the three-foot tall strawberry pot.  And today is the day that I am going to demonstrate my love for it.  It’s planting day.

The pot holds a place of honor in the garden, nestled among ferns and hostas and bleeding hearts.  It’s tall enough that it provides not only a focal point, but some vertical color in an area of the garden that is heavy with foliage.

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A Pot To Call My Own

It seems like only yesterday that I planted these Geraniums, the first of this year’s seeds to be started early — and here they are, all grown up and ready to be moved into individual pots.  The truth is I am always caught off guard each year.  I know this day has to come – and then all at once, all of the sprouts have their first set of true leaves, an indication that I’ve got a lot of transplanting to do. 

Step 1:  I moisten a batch of seed starting mix, which is a little lighter and airier than potting soil and so roots do not have to work as hard to develop and grow.  Keeping the mixture moist not only creates a damp environment for the transplant, but it also keeps down the dust factor for your lungs.  I then fill the cell packs with the mixture.  Using a pencil or the tongue depressor plant label, I make some room for the transplant, deep enough so the roots can grow downward.

Step 2: I then ease the seedling from it’s starting pot.  This can be a little tricky.  I use the plant label as a shovel to help bring out the seedling.  In a starting pot that is more densely packed, I usually unpot the whole thing, resting the potless soil and seedlings on the potting bench.  I am then able to pry out each individual seedling, working from the perimeter to the middle, without disurbing the roots of the neighboring plants.

Step 3: At this stage, be very careful in how you handle the seedling.  I do not hold the plant by its stem or by the first set of true leaves.  Everything is still a little delicate — kind of like the soft spot on a baby’s head — and I wouldn’t want to crush any of  the developing plant cells.  Instead, the only thing I handle are the cotyledon leaves, the “baby leaves,” since these will eventually die as the plant continues to grow.

Step 4: With my plant label “tool,” I place the seedling into it’s new pot.  My goal is to help the roots into the hole’s depth, rather than bunching up near the surface.  I think this helps the overall health of the plant, especially as it continues to mature and is ultimately planted in the garden.  Deeper root development helps to prevent the plant from drying out in arid conditions.

Step 5:  Finally, I place the pot in a tray of water for bottom watering.  At this stage, I do not want to compact the soil mixture too much with watering from above, since that would hinder healthy root development.


Now that the Geraniums are transplanted, all I have left are Amaranth, Impatiens, Salvia, Candytuft . . . Hmmmm . . . Do you suppose this is why Joe scratches his head in disbelief each year? 

Not-So-Wordless Wednesday: That’s A Wrap

I may be the gardener of the house, but Joe also has his landscape love.  One of his greatest loves is palm trees.  His absolute fave is Cocos nucifera, the coconut palm.  If it were up to him, coconut palms would be growing everywhere.  We often joke that he would be to coconut palms what Johnny Appleseed was  to apples — only he would be called Joey Coconuts, which does sound a little — alright, a lot — like a character from “The Sopranos.”

Sadly, coconut palms will not grow in our Zone.  Nor will most other palms found around the world.  So what’s a palm lover to do?  About 7 years ago, we purchased a windmill palm, Trachycarpus fortunei to be exact, from Stokes Tropicals.  Originally grown in China, the windmill is one of the hardiest of palms, able to tolerate a fairly severe freeze and a light winter snow cover.

But this is Long Island, and winters are unpredictable.  Sometimes mild, but in recent years — cold, snowy, and frozen.  Although the palm receives full sun, there are steps that we must take — or rather Joe must take, with my assistance — to ensure winter survival.



Bloomin’ Update 5: Hot Colors & Cool Thoughts

Hot colors in the heat dome.

The newscasters and weather forecasters are having a field day with the heat wave.  They’re frying eggs on the pavement and baking cookies in cars and they have a new term, “heat dome,” to describe the blistering weather pattern.  The urgency in their voices reminds me of “The Twilight Zone” episode where the Earth is moving closer to the sun.  These are the same people, mind you, who whip up winter hysteria when snow is predicted.  It seems that no matter what Mother Nature throws at us, she’ll never make everyone happy.

I must admit, though, I am enjoying the heat dome — or as I call it, summer.  Yes, it’s hot, and yes, I’m spending lots of time quenching my thirsty plants.  For lots of reasons — too many to get into here  —  I like the warmth.  I like the casualness of the season.  And I like the time spent in the garden, because the days of the heat dome are numbered. 

In honor of this sentiment, I would like to share a few hot colors from around the yard, as well as a few cool thoughts to remind us of what was and what will come.

My reward for saving Canna corms each autumn.

The potting shed.

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